Through a series of parliamentary maneuvers, Democrats succeeded in preempting, at least temporarily, a GOP amendment to a fiscal 1988 defense spending bill that Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) said would have turned the Senate into a "potted palm."
The amendment stated that the Senate should do nothing to tie President Reagan's hands on arms control "at the very moment that such sensitive arms control subjects are being negotiated." It was directed specifically at a provision in the defense bill, written by the Democrats, that would prevent Reagan from testing his Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars" space-based missile defense system.
Nunn argued that the Senate, which is invested under the Constitution with the power to advise the President on treaties and to consent to them, is entirely within its rights to express its views on arms control and to restrict how Reagan can spend the $4.5 billion contained in the measure for the "Star Wars" system.
In place of the GOP amendment, the Democrats proposed an amendment that affirms the Senate's right to advise and consent on arms control.
Nunn blamed a four-month Republican filibuster, which ended last Friday, for forcing the Senate to debate this issue during Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze's visit to Washington. But he added that the freedom of Senate discussion "can demonstrate to Foreign Secretary Shevardnadze what glasnost (openness) means in this country."